Considering Consistency and Coherence in Digital Content Globalization

Jul 22, 2015


      Bookmark and Share

Article ImageFollowing a presentation at a recent global customer experience summit I was glad to discuss drivers and enablers of content effectiveness around the world once again. Quality and consistency came up naturally as topics of interest to many attendees and speakers. As I mentioned that I was considering consistency and coherence as major factors in globalization in general and localization in particular, it triggered a couple of immediate questions. Should we consider consistency or coherence in our content creation and management efforts internationally? How should we identify, prioritize, or discriminate both requirements in order to meet them and take actions effectively? Some good food for thought for content leaders and stakeholders in the digital globalization age...

First of all we should ensure consistency and coherence rather than choosing one of them like black or white. As both factors fuel effectiveness for most types of content they allow reaching the ultimate globalization goal, i.e. creating and maintaining a top-notch customer experience in all markets. Having said that the following couple of considerations may be kept in mind to make the most of both criteria and better engage with customers globally.

  • Coherence may create more value in narrative, creative or descriptive content such as marketing materials, online campaigns, and user-generated content. Adapting content further helps convey messages, concepts, ideas or innovation while meeting customer aspirations and diversity requirements. This may imply replacing cultural, geo-centric, and other sensitive references with meaningful and appropriate content. Linguistic and cultural sensitivity plays out as a must here to hit the customer experience target.
  • Consistency may be at the top of a check list for technical, commercial, or legal content such as user manuals, user interfaces, or contracts. It is typically more - and sometimes highly - structured and repetitive. Sticking to accurate terminology, vocabulary, and syntax rules is critical as any deviation can lead misunderstanding and long-term issues.

These directions and recommendations must be put into practice within an actionable and day-to-day framework that content owners and globalization leaders are familiar with.

  • Since consistency and coherence drive content quality both usually come up at the same time in content globalization and are often of equal importance. Training content may be used as a good example here as it has to be as engaging as accurate in order to be effective. Coherence enables to keep trainees in a comfort zone to learn along the way while consistency ensures they are in a meaningful zone to do so.
  • Consistency and coherence may be associated with more or less specific indicators. Memorability, ease of use or cultural relevance may be linked to coherence. Accuracy, reusability, or linguistic readability may depend on the level of consistency.
  • Various assets may be developed and maintained to manage consistency and coherence. Style guides combined with personas help address stylistic and preferential requirements. These requirements are then formalized as conventions underlying coherence in addition to general localization standards. Glossaries include key terms that are contextually sensitive and product-related among other things, and authoring guidelines are based on a collection of linguistic standards which should all be agreed upon as rules and guidelines enabling consistency.
  • Resources should be selected and leveraged carefully to ensure consistency and coherence. It requires the sharpest profile of linguist(s) that is based on proven skills, experience, and subject matter expertise. Linguists may have to team up with language analysts, terminologists, writers, and engineers according to the nature and amount of content.

Although these points may sound editorial they have an impact on globalization processes, workflows, and tools as well. An ongoing debate on localization and transcreation tends to evidence this as far as processes are concerned. Both are well established but still make some people wonder how to follow them. In my opinion they are two sides of the same coin called customer experience enablement. From my experience localization has been the rule with transcreation as exceptions so far - even for most creative content - provided that localization remains defined as the adaptation of content to meet locale (not only local) requirements. It is also assumed that a locale is defined as a group of target customers with identical characteristics. As a result a locale may relate to a country or a territory, but also covers customers sharing the same requirements ranging from language and culture to business. So it should not be seen a concept rooted in a geographical area only. When using this granular and holistic definition localization has to be managed accordingly to deliver on customer centricity for any type of content including further adaptation in case of pitfalls like idioms, geo-centric references, and tone of voice. I have noticed some people appreciate transcreation as a layer of certainty that content will be truly engaging in each and every market. Their eagerness to do so may appear when there is a doubt about the level of world readiness of source content. I have also experienced the risk of transcreation potentially doing more harm than good when it turns into uncontrolled recreation leading to semantic changes and dilution of the gist of source content. No matter how processes are labeled using the effective ones and delivering on customer experience matter most at the end of day.

Consistency and coherence should also be managed properly within workflows and with associated tools. Much focus should be put on the inclusion of steps dedicated to professional linguistic and cultural management whether it is done in house or by suppliers as well as to effective local review. It may mean adding roles and responsibilities at each of these stages. In the same way translation management systems must be configured to support tasks related to both criteria, for example with applicable business rules, and translation memories must be set up to maintain content from a consistency and coherence perspective for all target locales.